That is what my life seems to have consisted of for the past several years.
Funny, thinking of years as a human would – a period of time, inevitably counting down the days until the last breath was taken and the spirit fled the body to reap its reward in the numerous plains of the dead.
Of course that depended wholly upon which god the person worshipped and what moral path that person followed.
Sorry about that, sometimes I get distracted when I'm trying to put my thoughts to parchment like I am today. Right… where was I? Oh yeah, failure.
My first biggest failure was my inability to fight off the presence of a demon. This was what… had to be about eighteen years ago, which for an Elf, that is merely a blink of the eye, but for a human, that could be half a lifetime. My mind, after such a span of time has passed, still returns to that fateful day when I destroyed the demon's physical form and it's spirit smashed through my mental defenses as if they didn't exist.
When it had control of my body, it killed. Oh how it had killed. I am a skilled archer, or at least I had been until events a few years after this incident changed things, and it was like reaping wheat before a harvester's scythe. They fell in droves, I personally wiped out an entire village, a couple of hundred hapless and innocent men, women and… yes and children.
After the demon's spirit left my body, I was free to relive what I had done under its control. I nearly took my life several times. Then I found a young girl who needed a father. I provided what she needed and at the same time, she ended saving my life.
From there I did what I could. I cared for her, loved her, made sure the girl never had to go without anything she needed. Food, clothing, a place to stay and even an education. I managed to find a tutor for her, a woman who captured both our hearts.
Of course my next biggest failure was taking what seemed to be a simple contract. This was to deliver goods to a family of merchants in the far North West part of Faerun. I knew when I took it the contract would require at least a few months of travel, there and back, but the payoff would ensure my girl's education and would keep her fed and happy until she grew up.
I explained what I was planning on doing and her tutor suggested she would return to Waterdeep until I returned. I wanted Cheonsa to go with her to the city of Splendors, but the girl insisted she was going to come with me and my companion. Even when I said I would tie her up until after I was gone, she promised she would escape and follow me.
When it came down to the crunch, I had to relent and allow her to come with Thorn and myself. I could not risk her taking off on her own in the forest, following us. She was picking up some of my skills, and had an natural aptitude with the bow and could track better than some adults I had dealt with, but the forest was no place for a nine year old girl.
Ah yeah… she came alright. At first the trail was pretty easy. We made it almost the entire way to our destination before everything began to go pear-shaped.
Don't laugh. I know full well using human-slang seems really strange, coming from an Elf. You seem to forget – I may be a pointy-eared tree-hugger, but I was raised by humans. Elves who get to know me are often shocked when they discover just how old I really am. To them, I'm still a child – I should still be living at home with my parents and studying, or at least working in an Elf community.
For a human – I'm what they consider to be middle aged, maybe even old, depending on the part of the world they live in. I only recently achieved my 73rd birthday. I have seen a great deal in the past twenty-odd years.
Dragons, ancient liches, mummies, all manner of undead, hidden and lost temples and cities and prevented a supposed god from turning my daughter into a demi-god in her own right.
Yeah, you heard me. It's a long story and as it turns out, on one hand I succeeded with the help of my friend Thorn, and a dwarf named Orsic, but truth be told I failed miserably once again. And this time it had far greater consequences than I had ever imagined.
See – Cheonsa, my daughter, had been possessed by an ancient spirit. Not a demon, but a spirit none the less who was powerful and pretty damned evil. I had to kidnap my own daughter from the clutches of a group of fanatics and take her deep into the desert on the far western part of the world in order to find an ancient city to perform a right.
Many lives were taken, and the world was purged of numerous and powerful undead. Remember the lich I mentioned? In the process we came to possess a powerful and extremely evil magical tome, and it held the ritual which needed to be performed to rid Cheonsa from the presence which had possessed her.
The price was extreme – one I had been more than willing to pay. The ritual called for the sacrifice of those who were pure of heart and innocent. Instead my companions and I gave up portions of our very souls. I had never wanted that to happen. I wanted to pay the price but the gods are fickle. Wait – lets be honest here… the gods are assholes sometimes. Instead of me paying the price to free Cheonsa, not only I but my companions had to make the sacrifice.
It worked though, and my girl was freed.
Except – well she was traumatized by what we had done. I shouldn't be shocked by learning it had happened, but when we were returning home, she would not speak a word to me. Not just me, but to any of my companions. And then one day out of the blue, she came up to me as we were breaking camp and kissed me on the cheek and said she was going home to our log cabin near Waterdeep. She needed to think about what had happened and decide what she was going to do.
Then out of the blue, she disappeared. My companion Thorn claimed she teleported, and it had to have been the residual magic left behind from her possession. It still came as a shock to the three of us.
And it broke my heart. I had sacrificed so much, and so had my companions in order to save her and as it turned out, we failed once again.
No, that's not fair to Orsic and Thorn. They did their best and succeeded.
It was my choices and as such I failed.
After her sudden and wholly unexpected disappearance, I was determined to make my way back to Waterdeep so I could speak with her and find out, or at least try to find out what by the gods of the underworld was going on with her.
The problem was getting back to the great city would not be a quick or easy task, not by any stretch of the imagination. I had a couple of months travel ahead of me if things worked out well.
That was the crux of it.
Rarely did things ever work out well. Just seemed to be my lot in life.
We encountered a city which was under siege by an invading army and after making it past the army and sneaking our way into the city, they offered to teleport myself and my companions to the city of splendors if we could somehow force or talk the invaders into leaving. I had little hope we could succeed in such an endeavor, but I figured I had to try. I needed to get back to both Cheonsa and Natheria. I had no idea how long such a task would require, and considered just telling the city counselors to go stuff themselves, as by the time, if we somehow managed to succeed, I could have made it all the way back on foot.
The choice was taken away from me. Well, to be fair, maybe it wasn't taken away, instead an opportunity arose and it seemed almost too good to be true.
In the High Forest, there stood what many of my true parents folks called the Grandfather tree. This ancient and mystical tree was supposed to have been part of the land well before humans walked, and had been home to my parent's people for uncounted years. I was contacted by a druid, at least I'm pretty damn sure it was a druid, and asked to come in order to give aid to the tree.
See… the Grandfather tree was dying. Someone or something was laying waste to the human community which had sprung up around the base of the ancient being. After the contact, I knew it would bring me to within a week or so travel from my home and my daughter.
Being the man I am, how could I not offer my help to those in need? It's part of my nature. I cannot turn my back on those who need it any more than I could turn off my need for food and air to survive. After consulting with Thorn and Orsic, they readily agreed to accompany me to the tree and were willing to offer their assistance.
When I think back on this, it kind of makes me feel guilty the number of times I beat the living hell out of Thorn for all the insensitive things he had said to me over the years. You'd think someone who was as intelligent as he was would know better. Then again… maybe he had his reasons?
I don't know, and I'm getting off track once again.
In order for us to make the transition, all we had to do was clasp hands as I touched any tree in the forest, and we would be transported to the Grandfather tree in an instant. We did just that and in the beat of my heart, we were there.
The second we arrived we all sensed something was amiss. Something terrible had occurred and it was affecting each of us. It was bad enough we had sacrificed part of our soul in order to break the possession on my daughter, but the magic we all shared, something was off.
I hadn't felt anything like this in nearly two decades, and even back then I did not put any thought into it, although now I realize if I had spent even a half hour in meditation, it would have occurred to me. I just assumed it had something to do with the Grandfather tree, and the fact the ancient being was slowly dying.
We talked about it and came to the conclusion it might be a test, some way to regain the power we had lost. All we had to do was find a way to cure the Grandfather tree and ensure it would survive.
Kind of a logical idea, right?
The druid met us and informed us as to what was happening. It seemed the dark elves had recently made an appearance and had poisoned the tree after killing the majority of the human villagers who had made home around the tree. The few they did not kill they had taken captive. He suggested we follow the Drow and maybe it would help answer a few questions we had.
I'll give you three guesses as to what happened next.
You got it.
We failed again.
Not only did we fail to catch the dark elves on time, but the few survivors were given over to a Mindflayer and its ally an Aboleth. We barely managed to escape the deep realms and make it back to the surface. I won't deny the fact that losing part of my soul, and so much of the power I had come to rely on over the past years more than likely had a major hand in this.
Well that, and again if I want to completely honest, I was overconfident and too cocksure for my own good.
Thorn asked if we could travel north to Silverymoon, where he hoped if we spent a little time at the great libraries found in the magical city, it might help us in our task. I was feeling so discouraged and heart-sick at the time I readily agreed to his request.
It was our traveling through the lands towards the city which revealed to us exactly what had happened, as well as why magic and everything seemed to be so off. Somehow the Grandfather tree had reached across the chasm of time itself in order to find a champion to come to its aid.
We were back in the times of trouble, where magic did not work the way it was supposed to, and where gods were killed and new gods rose to take their places. It hit Orsic really hard, as his god had not yet ascended to power, and there was a massive void filling his heart and soul, made all that much worse because of the loss of power we all suffered. Thorn, he tried to weave his magic but more often than not it simply failed him, and it seemed to happen when we needed it the most.
I have wondered on more than a few occasions the wisdom the tree showed in choosing me for this task. A Elf who was already damaged by a demon, who wore the scares physically and mentally. Who had already sacrificed part of his own soul in order to save his daughter.
No accounting for taste I guess, or maybe it was the fact that so many of the greatest heroes of the Realms were already engaged in tasks they could not ignore any further.
I don't know.
By the time we reached Silverymoon I was in a black mood, one so dark not even the very thought of my girl could bring me out of it. The fact we had traveled back in time to what was known as the Time of Troubles was something I could barely fathom. My baby would not even be conceived for another six years!
It was also at this time the revelation came to me that she was not just my adopted daughter… No nothing so simple as that. As it turns out, Cheonsa really was my daughter. Both Orsic and Thorn pointed it out to me on several different occasions how much she looked like me.
It seemed the gods had meant for her and I to meet and I was to be not just her protector and guardian, but her father. No wonder I felt such an instant and powerful bond with the girl when I first laid eyes on her all those years ago.
Of course I wondered what had happened to her mother, but despite the fact I did wish to track her down and discover her fate… that was not in the cards. It was going to be another six years before we would meet for that first time, and spend one night together. Even to this very day, I still remember the look in her eyes, and the way she half-insulted me by saying I wasn't as pretty as most Elves she had met, and as such, she liked me.
The more I try to think about this, the more it hurts my head.
Funny thing is, whenever I tried to leave the village in order to head to Waterdeep, with that very thought in my mind, something always prevented me from going. I grew deathly ill one time, then the next time a band of rabid kobolds – I kid you not – attacked and kept us on the defensive for several days. Then I broke my arm.
Finally it turned out that my goddess Mielikki had enough of my stubborn nature and sent one of her rare avatars, or maybe it was just one of her clerics, to tell me to stay put and not bother trying to enact what had already happened. The way the cleric or avatar explained it to me – in terms so simple a child could understand it – I could not be in the same place or places where I had been before, because there were actually two of us in the world.
Again I tried to wrap my head around the idea, and it was difficult, but I guess it made sense. After all, I had full memories of what had transpired and that mean they were real, and trying to change them was not allowed by the rules of time and magic.
So despite the desperate loneliness I felt and the loss of my daughter – I still have trouble wrapping my head around the concept that Cheonsa is in fact my real daughter – I had no choice but to wait.
The years passed slowly. For regular elves, those born and raised in an Elf community, maybe they would see the passage of time in a different light. Maybe the years I waited would seem like months or weeks to them.
I was raised by humans. Oh right, you already know that.
And I got off track once again. Sorry about that.
Back to the story I have been trying to relate. After several days of searching the library and consulting the mages and sages in the great city, Thorn finally came across a potential elixir which could be used to stem the progress of the poison, maybe even reverse it. At least we had a potential cure and for the first time in many a day I felt my mood pick up.
What it required was another journey to the Underdark, where we needed to get ingredients. I'm not a huge fan of the Underdark, as you may have guessed. I prefer the open air, the forests and hills, even the mountains. It is where I am most comfortable. Despite this, we went and spent several weeks in the darkness and depths.
Shockingly enough, we succeeded in our goal. We encountered Drow, more undead and other nasty and deadly denizens of the deep, but we got the ingredients and returned to the surface, even though it was far more difficult to do so, as we were severely underpowered.
That's when we ran into another major failure though. Once when we were back in the village, Thorn did his best to mix the ingredients, and we had the elixir in our hands. Thorn and I had to call upon the magic we still retained, as well as his spells. The ritual went wrong. I can't say it was Thorns fault, as he did everything perfectly, but the remainder of our power was drained just as we were set upon by the Aboleth's minions. They prevented Thorn from finishing the ritual and everything was lost. He was forced to enter the Ethereal plain to try and escape, and we never saw him again.
The Grandfather tree continued to wither, despite our sacrifices and best efforts. Sure, we defeated the Aboleth's minions but by then it was far too late.
So it was difficult. At least I had my friend Orsic, although I lost Thorn. As much as that Elf got on my nerves, I found I really did miss him. He always stated that using that damned ring of his would eventually catch up with him, and I guess some creature finally did kill or capture him on the Etheric plane.
And Orsic – despite him being a dwarf and trying to annoy me by making fun of my gender, which I returned in kind, he turned out to be a great friend. We worked together, helping with the village guards, occasionally taking care of the rare monster or undead which somehow penetrated the village, and hunt.
Evenings were spent at the local watering hole, where we drank more than I thought possible and talked about our past exploits, and of course our failures. So over the years as the Grandfather tree slowly faded away, we stayed in the village. Both of us helped with the watch, and I spent a lot of time in the woods, hunting and gathering. Sometimes I would spend weeks or even months, but thanks to one of the magical trinkets we had found during our travels, I was always able to keep in touch with Orsic.
Routine kept me sane, and the prospect of being reunited with Cheonsa likewise kept the darkness at bay. Sooner than I had thought possible, the Times of Trouble came to an end. I had really hoped some of my lost power would return, but it never did. I was far weaker than I had been, even in my earlier years. My skills had deteriorated and no matter how much practice I put into honing and training, I never reached the same level of expertise I had once possessed. When it came right down to it, I had no choice but to accept what had befallen me.
Eventually the time finally arrived when I knew she would have teleported from the great desert to the far west back to the cabin I had painstakingly built for her and Natheria. With serious reservations and trepidation, I left the small community and made the long trek through the forest to the cabin. I had not laid eyes on it for many a year and when I finally arrived, I just stayed put in the forest, watching and studying the rustic home.
Eventually I spotted Cheonsa, and she walked straight to where I laid hiding. At least I had thought I was hiding, but like so many of my other skills, I had lost the edge. She greeted me in a very grave and formal manner, but I couldn't hold back. I swept the girl up in a tight embrace and held her for what seemed like hours, but it was only a few minutes. At first, she was as stiff as an ancient Treant but after a brief moment, she relaxed and clung almost as fiercely to me as I to her.
I looked up, expecting to see Natheria waiting for us, but the beautiful tutor was nowhere to be seen. Cheonsa could sense what I was searching for, and she explained to me the woman had not been in the cabin when she returned, and nothing seemed out of place. It was as if she woke up one morning and left, despite most of her clothing and belongings were still inside our home.
I vowed I would search for her and see if I could find any trace of the woman, but it had to wait. My girl and I needed to speak, and for a youngster of her age, she was far more eloquent and well-spoken than she had any right to be.
Turns out she retained part of the memories and even some of the power the creature which had resided in her once possessed, and oddly enough she also seemed to be in possession of some of the power I had sacrificed to free her – mine and mine alone, none of the power my friends had sacrificed.
As we talked she told me she fully understood why I had done what I had, and she forgave me for it. How strange it was, such a young thing like her forgiving me for acting as her father should, but I accepted it none the less.
We were a family once again and that was all that mattered to me. So after sending word to Orsic, I decided to stay and continue to train and live with my daughter. I tried, the gods know I tried to find out what happened to Natheria. I even went back to Waterdeep and asked around about her there, but no one had seen or had heard from her. The headmaster was more than a little angry at me, but thankfully Cheonsa stood by my side and defended me, eventually convincing the man I had nothing to do with her disappearance.
Still, it weighed heavily on my heart, and I just added it to the ever-growing list of failures I have managed to accumulate.
Despite that, I was for the first time in ages, content and if I would be so bold to say so, even happy. The years passed so quickly it was breathtaking. The years I had been waiting to be reunited with her dragged by at a snail's-pace, but they flew with the swiftness of a great raptor.
She learned and grew from a gangly young girl to a heart-breaking lovely woman, despite her obvious demonic heritage. She grew strong and agile, and took to the ways of a Ranger with deceptive ease. Of course I gave her my magical items to use – after all, I had for all intent and purpose given up on the life of exploration and adventure, although the few times we had issues with some of the more deadly creatures I would take back my Oathbow. Still, she had made excellent use of everything I had once called my own.
Even the magical ring which allowed me to come back from the worst wounds you could imagine, even those which would have killed most ordinary people. That was the hardest bit of magic for me to give up. It's like an addiction, trying to give up on the alcohol or drugs that many people tend to use to help them cope.
Still, she needed them far more than I did, and truth be told, the cloak and armor looked better on her than it ever did on me. Then again, as her mom pointed out, I wasn't exactly what most would consider to be a handsome man, and that says a lot when it comes to Elves. I guess too many scars, including the internal ones I carried, and it showed on my face.
Of course the day finally came.
Cheonsa had managed to make several friends in Waterdeep, and as it turned out, and I should not have been surprised, they were looking to make a name for themselves, hoping to become part of the living legends who helped shape Faerun for so many centuries. I still vividly recall how we sat for our last meal together. It was cold, and a thin blanket of snow had fallen and was covering the ground. Now when I think about it, the snow should have been a portent, something I should have seen at the time. I had not seen snow in this part of the forest in nearly a decade, and I probably would not see it again anytime soon.
We sat, enjoying a meal of fresh venison and greens I had preserved for the long cold months. I could see it on Cheonsa's face something was bothering her, and I could tell she had something to say to me. Of course I feared the worst, I feared she was going to blurt out and tell me she was carrying one of her friend's child.
When she finally spoke, I could see the look of sorrow on her face, and the unshed tears brimming in the corners of her eyes. Before I could ask what was wrong, she told me she was leaving in the morning. Cheonsa mumbled something about needing to experience the world and to grow.
The lump in my throat was so large I couldn't speak. So I just nodded and reached out across the table to grasp her hand. We finished the rest of the meal in silence, I barely having touched my food before she stood and cleaned up the dishes.
I took my usual spot before the fireplace and made sure there were several large logs placed on the glowing embers. They would catch soon enough and would keep the cabin warm for the rest of the night. Cheonsa came and kissed me on the cheek, and I could feel her hot tears as they ran down the side of my face, almost tracing the outline of my tattoo.
Much to my surprise, I found slipping into my meditative state was easy that night. And of course when I had finally come out of my trance, the sun was still hours from cresting the horizon, and my girl was gone.
She left the ring behind, with a note saying she loved me, and always would, and thanked me for being a good father, no matter what I thought otherwise. The note stated she would be back, and not to worry about her. The power we sacrificed had not gone in vain and it still resided in her, and as such she would not need the ring.
And that was it.
Winter passed and spring came and went in a haze. It's now summer and things have changed once again.
Out of the blue, I came out of my trance and felt the familiar power coursing through my body. Not as powerful as it had been before the sacrifice, but I could feel it. My greatest fear was for my daughter. I feared she had been killed and I raced off to Waterdeep in order to consult with the mages there, to see if I could discover the fate of my girl.
She is still alive, much to my eternal relief. I had nothing to fear.
The power which had been stripped from me all those years ago was back. And I had the overpowering urge to go out and explore the world once again. And yet… I felt as if I still had a duty to perform, a way to reverse the death of the Grandfather tree and help the folks in the village. So my mind was made up, and as if the gods themselves were waiting for this to occur, strange events began to take place in the village and the surrounding forest.
I was back and ready to face the challenges, ready to regain what I had lost all those years ago.
Despite my failures.